Meridian man pleads guilty after August hit-and-run in Garden City

Victim Alan Beavers remains in a coma more than a month after he was struck in a crosswalk.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comOctober 2, 2013 

In court Wednesday afternoon, John Taylor French said he panicked after his SUV slammed into the 24-year-old pedestrian.

“I got really scared, and I just made a bad choice,” he told Judge Patrick Owen.

French, 20, was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor after he ran a red light, struck Alan Beavers in a Garden City crosswalk and then fled the scene Aug. 24.

French said Wednesday that he was driving on Chinden Boulevard when he looked down momentarily to change the radio. When he looked up, he said, the light had changed to red and he was too close to stop.

That’s when police say French’s Toyota 4Runner plowed into Beavers, who was crossing at Maple Grove Road. French said he knew he had collided with something, but did not immediately realize it was a person.

He pulled into the parking lot of a nearby gas station. When he looked back, he said, he saw Beavers’ crumpled form in the road and realized what had happened.

So he took off.

Other motorists stopped immediately to help the injured man. Beavers remains hospitalized and has been in a coma since he was hit.

After the crash, French discarded the damaged hood of his car in a trash bin. He also bought a new hood and headlight and painted them to match his black SUV.

But he was arrested Aug. 27, three days after the crash, and charged with felony leaving the scene of an injury accident, felony destruction of evidence and misdemeanor reckless driving. He could spend up to 11 years in prison.

“I know I am guilty of these charges,” he told Owen.

There is no plea deal on the table in French’s case, leaving prosecutors open to argue for the highest possible punishment.

Prosecutors said detectives tracked French down using surveillance video from the gas station, and a turn signal cover that belonged to a 1995 Toyota 4Runner.

They spotted French’s vehicle parked in front of his home. When they confronted the man with a broken piece of his SUV’s grill left at the scene, French eventually confessed.

At Wednesday’s hearing, a defense attorney asked Owen to lower French’s $50,000 bond. French has been in the Ada County Jail since his arrest.

The defense argued that French was a young man who had made a terrible mistake out of fear. There was no sign that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he hit Beavers, the lawyer said, and he had been cooperative with police.

But prosecutors urged the judge to leave bond as it is. Because he was arrested days after the crash, there was no way to test if he had been intoxicated. In addition, prosecutors said, French cooperated with detectives only after he was backed into a corner.

French convinced a friend to lie to police and provide him with an alibi, they said. French’s mother also told detectives that her son had been home that night, although the defense argued that she was not aware of the accident.

As the prosecution spoke, several members of French’s friends and family, who packed the gallery, reacted by shaking their heads.

“You’re not here to provide me with your comments,” Owen rebuked the group.

Ultimately, Owen agreed with the prosecution, and left French’s bond at $50,000. He is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 13.

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

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